12 ways to streamline the mortgage process

Streamline mortgages in 12 steps

Start fast, practice empathy, and focus on member satisfaction.

January 8, 2020

Blaine Rada likens the mortgage industry to the Titanic.

“It hit the iceberg because it couldn’t turn quickly,” he says. “It’s the same with our industry—we don’t turn quickly; we react when we have to. We focus on doing what’s right, not on doing the right things.”

Rada, senior national trainer for Arch MI Academy, addressed the CUNA Lending eSchool.

He offers 12 steps to ensure smooth mortgage transactions.

1. Innovate

While regulations govern much of what mortgage lenders can do, there’s still room to innovate.

“I’m not saying we should discard the rules,” Rada says. “But when we focus solely on doing everything correctly, we don’t always find ways to do the right thing.”

He suggests engaging in “extra disciplinary thinking,” or looking to other industries for ideas. “Ask yourself how you can apply what they’re doing to what you’re doing.”

2. Take the right approach

Sometimes you’ll need to hold members’ hands during the mortgage process; other times you need to take control and push members to move the process forward.

“The mortgage process can be stressful for the average person,” Rada says. “These aren’t just transactions; they’re relationships.

“But as much as the member might want to control the process, you need to tell the member what you need and take control.”

3. Start fast

Get the loan off to the best possible start. “Put time and attention on the front side of the process to ensure it goes well,” he says. “Taking shortcuts early on will make it more challenging to keep the loan together and keep everyone happy.”

Also, set realistic expectations. Let members know how long the process will take and what they can do to speed it along.

Blaine Rada

‘Look at lending through the eyes of a member.’

Blaine Rada

4. Focus on borrower satisfaction

The three biggest main stumbling blocks in the mortgage process are time—it takes too long; documentation—there’s too much of it; and poor communication.

Ask members about their communication preferences (i.e., email, phone, text), and let them know when you’ve met certain milestones in the process. “This is what drives satisfaction,” Rada says.

He wants borrowers not to be merely satisfied, but ultimately “amazed.” That happens when lenders anticipate members’ needs and problems that occur along the way.

5. Demonstrate empathy

Look at the loan process from the member’s perspective. “They think it’s an interrogation, not an interview,” he says. “Be respectful and empathetic. Remind yourself: These are families, not files.”

Also, don't use jargon members won’t understand. This creates a divide, not a bridge, Rada says.

“Stop looking at lending through the eyes of a lender. Look through the eyes of a member. What are they going through and what are they thinking?”

6. Know your business

Focus on borrower’s ability and willingness to repay. Focus on the borrower’s income and collateral.

“Put all of the pieces together like a puzzle,” he says. “Does it fit or does it not make sense? Focus on what’s not normal and investigate the heck out of it. Ask your underwriter, ‘what will you look for?’”

7. Provide a complete application

Compile all necessary information in the application to ensure underwriters can make a loan decision.

Common stumbling blocks include inconsistencies between the application and documentation, and calculating variable income.

8. Consider words ending in 'ability'

Focus on stability and future dependability.

The strongest indicator of future behavior is past behavior, Rada says. “If you ever struggle to decide where someone is going, look back.”

9. Be decisive

Build the mental discipline needed to make decisions and know how to justify these decisions.

Focus on what’s probable. “Because we can’t predict the future, we deal in probability,” he says. “If you stray from what’s probable, you’re probably not making the right decisions.”

10. Be a lending rock star

The five traits of top originators or “rock stars” are expertise, discipline, transparency, communication, and passion.

“Those who rise to the top love this business,” Rada says. “If that’s not you, find something else that juices you up.”

11. Think before you communicate

“I’m all for casual communication, but I don’t take it casually,” he says. “I take it seriously and give thought to what I’m saying. Too often, we don’t. Think before you hit ‘send.’”

12. Take a new road

Don’t stick to business as usual.

“Try something new, think creatively, and find ways to be better,” Rada says. “Find ways to make loans work.”